“Your Leader is one, the Christ.”—MATTHEW 23:10.
1, 2. What huge task did Joshua have after Moses died?
JEHOVAH told Joshua: “Moses my servant is dead. Now get up, cross the Jordan, you and all this people, and go into the land that I am giving to them.” (Joshua 1:1, 2) What a change for Joshua, who had been Moses’ attendant for almost 40 years!
2 Moses had led the Israelites for a very long time, but now Joshua would lead them. So he may have wondered if the people would accept him as their leader. (Deuteronomy 34:8, 10-12) Referring to Joshua 1:1, 2, one Bible reference book says that one of the most difficult and dangerous times for a nation, whether in the past or today, is when one leader replaces another.
3, 4. How did God bless Joshua for trusting in him, and what question can we ask?
3 Joshua had good reason to be worried. But he trusted in Jehovah and was quick to follow his instructions. (Joshua 1:9-11) God blessed Joshua for trusting in him and used an angel to guide Joshua and the Israelites. This angel was very likely the Word, God’s firstborn Son.—Exodus 23:20-23; John 1:1.
4 Jehovah helped the nation of Israel to adjust well to the changes that came from having Joshua as their new leader. In our day, there are also many big changes happening. We may wonder, ‘As God’s organization keeps progressing, do we have good reason to trust in our appointed Leader, Jesus?’ (Read Matthew 23:10.) To answer this question, we will examine how Jehovah led his people in the past during times of change.
LEADING GOD’S PEOPLE INTO THE PROMISED LAND
5. What unusual experience did Joshua have near Jericho? (See opening picture.)
5 Soon after the Israelites crossed the Jordan, Joshua had an unusual experience. Near the city of Jericho, he met a man with a sword. Joshua asked the man: “Are you on our side or on the side of our adversaries?” Joshua was surprised when the man said that he was the “chief of Jehovah’s army,” an angel who was ready to defend God’s people. (Read Joshua 5:13-15 and footnote.) Although the account in other places says that Jehovah was speaking directly to Joshua, it seems that God was using an angel to speak for him, as he often did in the past.—Exodus 3:2-4; Joshua 4:1, 15; 5:2, 9; Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19.
6-8. (a) Why might some of the angel’s instructions have seemed strange? (b) How do we know that the instructions were wise and came at the right time? (See also footnote.)
6 The angel told Joshua exactly what he needed to do to conquer Jericho. At first, some of the instructions might have seemed strange. For example, the angel told Joshua to circumcise all the soldiers. This meant that they would not be able to fight for a few days. Was it really the best time to circumcise these men?—Genesis 34:24, 25; Joshua 5:2, 8.
7 Maybe the soldiers wondered, ‘How will we protect our families if the enemy attacks our camp?’ But then something unexpected happened! Instead of attacking the Israelites, the men of Jericho became afraid of them. We read: “Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites; no one was leaving and no one was entering.” (Joshua 6:1) This news must have made the Israelites trust in God’s direction even more!
8 The angel told Joshua that the Israelites should not attack Jericho. Instead, they had to march around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. The soldiers might have thought, ‘What a waste of time and energy!’ But Israel’s invisible Leader knew exactly what he was doing! Following his instructions only made the Israelites’ faith stronger, and they did not have to fight against the soldiers of Jericho.—Joshua 6:2-5; Hebrews 11:30.* (See footnote.)
9. Why should we follow any instructions we receive from God’s organization? Give an example.
9 What can we learn from this account? Jehovah’s organization sometimes does things in a new way, and we may not always understand why. For example, we may not always have thought it was a good idea to use electronic devices for personal study, in the ministry, or at meetings. But now we probably see the benefits of using them if possible. When we see the positive results of such changes, our faith grows stronger and we become more united with our brothers and sisters.
HOW DID CHRIST LEAD THE EARLY CHRISTIANS?
10. Who really arranged for the important meeting of the governing body in Jerusalem about circumcision?
10 About 13 years after an uncircumcised Gentile named Cornelius became a Christian, some Jewish Christians were still saying that circumcision was necessary. (Acts 15:1, 2) In the city of Antioch, brothers were arguing about this. So the elders arranged for Paul to go and ask the governing body in Jerusalem about it. But who was really arranging for him to go? Paul explained: “I went up as a result of a revelation.” Clearly, it was Christ who directed matters so that the question would be answered by the governing body.—Galatians 2:1-3.
11. (a) What did some Jewish Christians still believe about circumcision? (b) How did Paul show that he humbly supported the elders in Jerusalem? (See also footnote.)
11 Christ directed the governing body to make it clear that non-Jewish Christians did not need to be circumcised. (Acts 15:19, 20) Still, years later, many Jewish Christians continued to circumcise their sons. Then the elders in Jerusalem heard the rumor that Paul did not respect the Law of Moses. So the elders asked Paul to do something that would show his respect for the Law.* (See footnote.) (Acts 21:20-26) They told him to take four men to the temple so that people would see that Paul did respect the Law. Paul could have said: ‘This makes no sense! Why would you ask me to do this? The Jewish Christians who do not understand the question of circumcision are the ones with the problem.’ But Paul understood that the elders wanted all Christians to be united, so he humbly followed their instructions. Yet, we may wonder why Jesus allowed circumcision to continue to be a problem for such a long time, even though the Law of Moses had ended when Jesus died.—Colossians 2:13, 14.
12. Why, possibly, did Christ allow time to pass before he completely settled the question of circumcision?
12 It can take time to adjust to a new understanding. Some Jewish Christians needed time to accept the fact that they were no longer under the Law. (John 16:12) They were used to thinking that circumcision was a sign of a special relationship with God. (Genesis 17:9-12) Others were afraid that they would be persecuted in their Jewish communities for being different. (Galatians 6:12) But in time, Christ gave them more direction in letters from Paul.—Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 3:23-25.
CHRIST STILL LEADS HIS CONGREGATION
13. What can help us to support the way Christ leads us today?
13 Christ is still the Leader of the Christian congregation today. So if the organization makes a change that you do not understand, think about the way Christ led God’s people in the past. Whether in Joshua’s day or in the time of the apostles, Christ has always given wise direction to protect God’s people, make their faith stronger, and help them stay united.—Hebrews 13:8.
The direction that the faithful slave gives us today proves that Jesus cares for us
14-16. How does direction from “the faithful and discreet slave” prove that Christ wants to help us keep our faith strong?
14 Today, “the faithful and discreet slave” gives us the direction we need just when we need it. (Matthew 24:45) This direction proves that Jesus cares for us. Marc, who has four children, says: “Satan is trying to weaken congregations by attacking families. Now with the encouragement to conduct family worship each week, the message is clear for family heads—safeguard your family!”
15 When we see how Christ is leading us, we will understand that he wants to help us keep our faith strong. For example, an elder named Patrick says: “At first, some found it discouraging to meet in small groups for field service on weekends.” But he says that this change shows how Jesus cares for everyone in the congregation. For example, some brothers and sisters who are shy or who did not go out in the field ministry very much feel more needed and useful. This has strengthened their faith.
16 Christ also helps us to stay focused on our preaching work, which is the most important work being done on earth today. (Read Mark 13:10.) André, a new elder, has always tried to follow any new direction from Jehovah’s organization. He says: “The reductions in branch office personnel remind us of the urgency of the times and the need to focus our energy on the preaching activity.”
HOW CAN WE SUPPORT CHRIST’S DIRECTION?
17, 18. Why should we focus on the ways we benefit from adjusting to changes?
17 The direction we receive from Jesus Christ, our reigning King, will help us now and in the future. Try to focus on the ways you have benefited because you adjusted to recent changes. During your family worship, you could discuss how the changes in the meetings or in the ministry have helped your family.
18 If we remember that following instructions from Jehovah’s organization leads to many good results, it will be easier to follow that direction and be happy. For example, because we do not print as much literature as before, we are saving money. And because we use new technologies, we are able to reach more people with the good news. Can we personally use electronic publications and media more? This is one way that we can support Christ, who wants us to use the organization’s resources wisely.
19. Why should we support Christ’s direction?
19 When we support Christ’s direction, we help our brothers and sisters to have stronger faith and be more united. André says about recent changes in the size of the worldwide Bethel family: “The fine spirit shown by former Bethelites who adapted to such changes inspires me with trust and respect. They keep pace with Jehovah’s chariot by finding joy in any assignment they are given.”
HAVE FAITH AND TRUST IN OUR LEADER
20, 21. (a) Why can we trust in Christ, our Leader? (b) What question will we discuss in the next article?
20 Soon our Leader, Jesus Christ, will “complete his conquest” and “accomplish awe-inspiring things.” (Revelation 6:2; Psalm 45:4) But even now he is preparing us for life in the new world and for the work we will do there, when we teach resurrected ones and help to make the earth a paradise.
21 As long as we trust in our Leader and King no matter what happens, he will lead us into the new world. (Read Psalm 46:1-3.) Today, changes can be difficult, especially when they affect us in unexpected ways. When that happens, how can we keep our peace of mind and strong faith in Jehovah? We will discuss that question in the next article.
In the ruins of Jericho, archaeologists found large amounts of grain that the people harvested but did not eat. This supports the Bible account, which tells us that the siege was short and that the Israelites were not allowed to eat Jericho’s grain. Since it was harvesttime, it was a good time for Israel to conquer the land because there was abundant food in the fields.—Joshua 5:10-12.
See the box “Paul Humbly Meets a Test” in The Watchtower, March 15, 2003, page 24.